Crazy-Smooth Crazy-Good Hummus ♥

Crazy-Smooth Crazy-Good Hummus ♥, simple hummus, perfected with three special techniques. Vegan and lower-fat.
An old-but-new quick appetizer, a homemade hummus that's perfect for a light holiday appetizer with a few veggies but also, of course, for year round. I use three special techniques that yield an extraordinary hummus – even without added oil. Not just vegan, "Vegan Done Real".

I've made plattersful of hummus over the years, always with canned chickpeas. But once I discovered an easy cooking technique that tenderizes the chickpea skins, creating an ultra-smooth, ultra-rich (but lower-calorie) hummus, it became a kitchen staple. The fridge rarely is without a batch of hummus!

Jerusalem Chickpeas, dried chickpeas cooked especially for hummus.
Long runs in the food processor, one or two ingredients at a time.
Using water, not oil, to finish the hummus – and while we don't mind skipping all those calories, we do this for taste and texture, first. The taste of the chickpeas really comes through!

IDEAS FOR A MEZE PLATTER Even for just the two of us, some times for dinner I'll put out a big platter filled with small servings of simple Middle Eastern-style foods. It's called meze [pronounced MEZ-zay], the Arabic tradition of gathering small plates on a large communal platter. It's a convivial way to eat, a small bite here, a morsel of conversation there, a sip of wine along the way. For a party, a small meze of two or three small, light appetizers is a welcome way to help guests stave off hunger until dinner moves to the table. Here are some ideas, I didn't realize I already had so many in my recipe collection!

Olives from the olive bar or Olivada, an olive paste
Roasted Roma Tomatoes or strips of roasted pepper
A few pickles or cucumber slices
Roasted Eggplant “Hummus" (Eggplant & Chickpea Dip & Spread) or Baba Ganoush, another eggplant spread
Toasted almonds
Fattoush (Traditional Middle Eastern Salad)
Fresh warm pita, cut in triangles
More Ideas for a Meze from The Kitchn

Roasted Eggplant “Hummus" ♥ (Eggplant & Chickpea Dip & Spread)

Roasted Eggplant Hummus ♥, eggplant, chickpeas & Greek yogurt in an addictive, ultra smooth and creamy dip and spread. Low Carb. Weight Watchers PointsPlus 2.
An addictive mix of roasted eggplant and chickpeas, a dip, a spread, a sauce, a scoop-it-by-the-spoonful straight from the fridge. It's the result of a happy accident, a last-minute leaving-on-vacation decision to throw separate batches of hummus and baba ganoush into the food processor together. Together. My notes from that day call it "Smoothest, Creamiest Most Amazing Hummus Ever" with three exclamation points. Three!!! And almost three years later? Ever since I make it this way on purpose!

Quick & easy. Low Carb. Weight Watchers friendly.

There's just one thing hard about today's extra-special recipe: what to call it.

IS IT HUMMUS? Well, technically "no" since hummus means "chickpeas" – and even though it does call for chickpeas, it has no tahini and the texture is much much lighter and smoother than hummus, airy, almost.
IS IT A DIP and a SPREAD? Yes! It's so easy to use as a dip with vegetables raw and cooker, even potato chips. Yes! It's fabulous spread on sandwiches, a sort of garlicky mayonnaise.
IS IT A MUST-MAKE? YES! Finally, an easy answer! For Thanksgiving, it can serve a dual purpose, a dip for veggies on the big Turkey Day and a spread for leftover turkey sandwiches afterward.

Roasted Eggplant Hummus ♥, eggplant, chickpeas & Greek yogurt in an addictive, ultra smooth and creamy dip and spread. Low Carb. Weight Watchers PointsPlus 2.
I've looked through several middle-eastern cookbooks to see if there's some name. Surely I'm not the first to invent this combination of roasted eggplant and chickpeas? Anyone know what this is? Anyone?

Here's how I've been using it:
Spread on bread or toast, an excellent mayonnaise substitute; a peanut butter substitute; just for its own goodness.
Drizzled over chicken kabobs.
Spread on Jerusalem Turkey Burgers with Zucchini.
In an appetizer "threesome" with Crazy-Good Crazy-Smooth Hummus plus either Roasted Roma Tomatoes or an artichoke tapenade, missing recipes to come.
In a meze plate along with smoked trout or gravlax, some pickles, a few olives, some fruit.
Drizzled over vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli, steamed or roasted or grilled.
Drizzled over sautéed spinach or kale.
Tossed with poached or fried eggs or spooned like hollandaise sauce over Eggs Benedict.

WORD DANCERS In Arabic, "hummus" means "chickpeas" not "chickpeas mashed with tahini, garlic and a little oil". In deference, I call this recipe Roasted Eggplant "Hummus" – hummus in quotes.

How to Cook Dried Chickpeas Especially for Hummus ♥ aka “Jerusalem Chickpeas”

How to Cook Dried Chickpeas for Hummus ♥ Yeah, it's worth the effort.
Chickpeas aka garbanzo beans are the legumes we love to eat, especially in hummus, that creamy middle-eastern spread. And sure, chickpeas come pre-cooked, in convenient cans. But can we do better, by cooking dried chickpeas at home? Yes! Read on ...

MAYBE TEN YEARS AGO? My friend Ann asked, "Which is better for hummus? Is it okay to just open a can of chickpeas? Or is it better to cook dried chickpeas?" I was happy to have the answer, quoting not personal experience but a long-ago blogger who'd done side-by-side comparisons and decided, canned chickpeas were as good for hummus as dried and cooked.

A NEW DAY FOR HUMMUS! That was then. THIS is now. Pretty-good hummus is everywhere, even in tubs at the grocery store. But extra-good hummus? That, friends, is harder to come by. It's found at some Middle-eastern restaurants, crazy good, that stuff, and crazy smooth. When I ask the chefs, their secret is olive oil, lots of olive oil – not what I was hoping to hear!

And you know how hummus can be sort of grainy? The trouble is the skins. Some crazy people even take a can of chickpeas and torture themselves by peeling off the skins. I know. C.R.A.Z.Y. Or as one of my favorite six-year olds would say. "That's CRAY-zee." Enter a quick headnote, no shouting, no exclamation points, in Jerusalem by Israeli-born Yotam Ottolenghi and Palestinian-born Sami Tamimi. It was mentioned offhand, the way you casually mention something only to benefit people living under rocks who don't already know something so commonplace. With those few words, thus began my journey out from under that rock and toward crazy-good, crazy-smooth hummus. Three tricks:

Sweet Potato Casserole ♥ Recipe

Sweet Potato Casserole ♥, traditional sweet potato casserole, updated. Think way-fewer-than-usual mini marshmallows, hints of vanilla and ginger, plus a pecan-panko topping. Delish! Weight Watchers PointsPlus 4.
The traditional sweet potato casserole, updated. Think way-fewer-than-usual mini marshmallows, hints of vanilla and ginger, plus a pecan-panko topping. Delish!

~first shared in 2007, updated for a little Thanksgiving inspiration~
~more recently updated recipes~

WAY BACK IN 2007 Some holidays, you just don't mess with tradition. But still, call me surprised to feature a recipe for a traditional Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top. My taste testers loved this! Good sweet potato flavor really comes through, the texture is soft and pillowy, the sweetness is there but not over the top. But the best part is the topping mixture, a few mini marshmallows interspersed with crispy bread crumbs spiced with ginger and toasted pecans. If marshmallows are traditional at Thanksgiving, so be it, I'm not messing with tradition!

UPDATE Whoa! I'd forgotten how good sweet potato casserole can be! This recipe isn't as sweet as many other recipes. Even so, I wouldn't hesitate to serve it for dessert though I'd put on my marketing hat and call it "sweet potato pudding". The topping is delicious and the mixture of a few marshmallows and pecan-panko crumbs just looks so pretty, which many sweet potato casseroles don't. This is a winner!

THAT SAID Sweet potatoes don't demand marshmallows! For a sweet potato casserole that's entirely savory, check out the, um, yeah, Savory Sweet Potato Casserole. So good!

Creamy Brussels Sprouts Gratin ♥ Recipe

Creamy Brussels Sprouts Gratin ♥, first roasted, then braised in cream or half 'n' half, turned dark and luscious. My favorite way to cook Brussels sprouts during cold weather but also a Thanksgiving favorite! Low Carb. Weight Watchers PointsPlus 3. Rave reviews!
Today's simple Brussels sprouts recipe idea: A simple gratin of fresh Brussels sprouts, first roasted, then braised in cream, then if you like, finished until crisp under the broiler. When I first shared this recipe for Thanksgiving in 2008, it was one of the richest dishes on the entire site – and worth every calorie. But over time, I've adapted the recipe, simplifying its preparation, reducing its calories, making it Weight Watchers friendly – and with no loss in satisfaction. Low Carb. Gluten Free. Vegetarian. And 100% Delicious.

~updated for a little weekend / Thanksgiving cooking inspiration~
~more recently updated recipes~

WAY BACK IN 2008: Oh. My. MY. What heat and cream don't do for "baby cabbages" aka Brussels sprouts. In fact, this might be my new most-favorite way to cook Brussels sprouts, simple and decadent both at once. The sprouts are elevated to a whole new experience, perfect for special occasions. And they couldn't be easier to make, so for anyone who has room for the calories, this is a great recipe for everyday, too.

UPDATE: Turns out, seven years later and this remains my favorite way to cook Brussels sprouts during cold weather. I have switched to half & half and skip the topping. (The purpose of a topping is usually to "finish" the appearance of an otherwise unattractive dish or to provide a "texture" contrast. Neither are needed here.) And I"ll say it again, Oh. My. MY. What heat and cream don't do for Brussels sprouts. We make them for dinner quite often and for this mid-afternoon batch for pictures, two of us may or may not have eaten an entire two pounds worth!

Thanksgiving Turkey Vegetable Platter ♥

Thanksgiving Turkey Vegetable Platter ♥, just your favorite veggies + creativity! Then wait for compliments!
graphic button small size size 10 Ready to create a real sensation at a Thanksgiving gathering? Turn your favorite raw and blanched vegetables into a Thanksgiving turkey! graphic button small size size 10

Welcome to November at A Veggie Venture, where ever since 2006, it's tradition to collect new Thanksgiving recipes throughout the month, adding new recipes to this huge collection of Favorite Recipes for Thanksgiving's Favorite Vegetables. (Who remembers the #1 favorite Thanksgiving vegetable?!) This year, I'm focusing on simple appetizer recipes, just small healthy bites to stave off hunger while gathering for the big dinner. If you have an idea that's special to your family gathering, I would totally love to know! But in the mean time, I'm starting off November with inspiration from one of my very favorite young cooks!

Oh how I love these girls! That's Kayla you see pictured. There's also Kayla's big sisters Erika and Niki (not forgetting their uber-talented brother Matt), kids when we first met seven years ago. (Just look how they've grown up!, that's Kayla in the center!) But now, wow, all three are such poised, adventurous and accomplished young women, from sports to academics to music to fashion. Each one is a huge help in the kitchen, they "know" what to do and are also happy to learn.

This Thanksgiving turkey vegetable platter? Last year just before Thanksgiving, Kayla took one look at a phone photo and decided to create her own turkey vegetable platter for our family dinner. Did she need to see the picture again? Of course not! She took the idea and ran with it, using her own eyes and imagination. Isn't it beautiful?! Like I said, capable, creative so-so cool kids. It gives me hope for this world.

Trader Joe’s Slow Cooker Hack #1 (Easy Jambalaya) ♥

Trader Joe's Slow Cooker Hack #1 ♥, 4 Trader Joe's products + 1 can tomatoes + slow cooker = Easy Jambalaya.
Four Trader Joe's products + a can of tomatoes + slow cooker = Easy Jambalaya supper!

We'd been gone for only four days but the fridge was on e-m-p-t-y so after retrieving the dog, I made a quick stop at Trader Joe's for eggs and milk. There at the tasting counter? A big slow cooker of an orange-colored spicy something. One taste later, I grabbed the four packages of "ingredients" – that would be supper, leaving lots of time and energy for pumpkin carving. The results? A spicy easy jambalaya, a hot supper.

Are these my favorite Trader Joe's products? Not by a long shot. Is it cooking? Not really. But it's a life hack, a Trader Joe's Slow Cooker Hack, and some days, that moves life's needle back to f-u-l-l.

PS Anyone interested in my favorite stuff from Trader Joe's? It'd be easy to put that together for another day. Plus, I'd really love to know your favorite Trader Joe's purchases. Let me know what you think!